Funding for Covid catch-up teaching not sufficient, says government’s tsar

Warning that lost lessons in early years will hit exam results long after

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
@andywoodcock
Tuesday 02 March 2021 12:31
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Covid catch-up funding not sufficient, says government education tsar

Funding for programmes to help children catch up on teaching missed due to coronavirus is not sufficient, particularly for the youngest children, the government’s education recovery tsar has said.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has committed £1.7 billion to helping schools and colleges provide catch-up support, including additional funding for tutoring, early language support and summer schools.

But the expert he appointed to oversee the programme today told MPs that the funding was “a good start” but not enough to do the job.

Sir Kevan Collins was giving evidence to the House of Commons Education Committee, whose chair Robert Halfon pointed to evidence that missed lessons early in a child’s schooling can have knock-on effects on exam results years later .

And studies suggest that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were being held even further behind by the effects of lockdown on their readiness for school, he said.

“The Education Policy Institute has shown that around 40 per cent  of the attainment gap at GCSE level - when disadvantaged pupils are 18.4 months behind their better-off peers - has emerged by the age of five,” said Mr Halfon.

“Ofsted’s survey of early years providers last November said that 53 per cent of providers reported their children’s personal and social development had fallen behind after the first lockdown, and we know how damaging it has been, particularly to younger children.

“Of the £1.7bn announced for catch-up, £10m is to be allocated to pre-reception the early language programme and £8m for Nuffield early language intervention. All good, but is that £18m sufficient?” Sir Kevan responded: “No it’s not sufficient. I think the whole package isn’t sufficient.

“I think it’s a good start, but this is not the recovery plan.”

The education recovery tsar said early-years education for the youngest pupils had been underfunded for some time.

“Over time we’ve under-invested in early years as nation,” he told the MPs.

“We need to understand the massive contribution great earliest practice makes and great early years experience makes. 

“I see it as core to my work to think about how do we better support early years as the foundation for learning and broad learning in terms of social skills and knowledge and non-academic development.”

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